Demythify: Damian Wayne vs Harper Row & Ex-Robins (Batman #12, Batman Inc #3, Batman and Robin #12) Spoilers

The Batman family titles remain the strongest among the DC Comics New 52 franchises. A big part of that I think has been due to their embracing of the “Robins” fraternity.

The last week in DC Comics news has been a-buzz by the spotlight issue of writer Scott Snyder’s Batman #12 on a relatively new character the Batman lore: a female tech-erchin named Harper Row.

Along with that, the postponement of Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. #3 from its July release date to August 22 has also garnered attention due to some likely graphic imagery in the title that DC Entertainment seemingly thought may be too soon to see so close to the Aurora Dark Knight Rises shooting tragedy. That said, many retailers have honored DC’s request to postpone release of the issue, but many also did not. I picked up the title on its July release date and am only know writing about it.

While writers Scott Snyder and Grant Morrison suck most of the oxygen out of fandom concerning the Dark Knight, Peter J. Tomasi’s current Batman and Robin arc should not be overlooked. While Batman Inc. #3 advances Damian Wayne’s (not Robin’s) story and Batman #12 gives Harper Row screen time signalling big things for the teen’s future, Batman and Robin #12 plays with Damian and all the ex-Robins: Nightwing, Red Hood and Red Robin (who was now never an adjectiveless Robin, but still part of the fraternity).

I’ve been intrigued by how DC Comics over the last few months have unveiled the complex relationships of these boys since in the New 52 Stephanie Brown was never a Robin which now males it 4 not 5 ex-Robins in current lore. The relationship building started with the reveals of 3 of the 4 Robins associations in Scott Lobdell’s Red Hood and the Outlaws series and the more recent Batman and Robin series reveals in recent months that make it 4 for 4 Robins kinships explained.

With that, let me walk you through the most recent significant Robins-centric reveals in the DC Comics New 52’s Batman and Robin #12, Batman Incorporated #3, and Batman #12; the latter was reviewed favorably here at the Comics Nexus.

    (From left to right: Regular cover to Batman and Robin #12, regular and variant cover to Batman Incorporated #3, plus regular and variant cover to Batman #12.)

…Beware SPOILERS ahead!… 😉

Batman and Robin #12: Damian’s Ex-Robins Quest Ends

Despite Grant Morrison’s introduction of Damian Wayne pre-New 52 and his indication of his big plans for the character in Batman Inc., writer While Peter Tomasi has been like a stepfather for the character and dealing with his emotional and intellectual growth in the pages of Batman and Robin. Damian is actually the biological son of Batman, he clearly has his mother’s aggressive streak, Talia Al Ghul, who is the big bad behind the nefarious organization Leviathan in the pages of Batman Incorporated and who also popped up in the recent The Dark Knight Rises hit movie.

Certainly when Damian was introduced he was portrayed as rough, with a chip on his shoulder, but more skilled in the Batman-like dark arts than any of Batman’s other Robins.

At the opening of the current Batman and Robin arc, the ongoing subplot behind the villain Terminus’ battle with Batman, has been Damian’s attempt to overcome his inferiority complex by pledging to defeat each of the previous Robins. In the first issue he tackles Tim Drake, Red Robin, and succeeds in showing Tim through a battle of wits – distracting Tim through a battle of brawn – that young master Drake, um, Drake-Wayne has his own dark side despite his squeaky clean persona.

Damian then tackles Jason Todd, Red Hood, in the next issue – a character most like Damian certainly at each’s opening Robin years – in a more traditional winner-takes-all-fight where Damian may get his Red Hood mask souvenir, but readers also see that Jason has matured beyond his original petulant, impulsive, Robin beginnings.

    (From left to right: First two panels from Batman and Robin #10, third panel from Batman and Robin #11 and final panel from Batman and Robin #12.)

Lastly, in the pages of Batman and Robin #12, Dick Grayson, Nightwing pre-empts Damian by proactively offering his fighting stick as a trophy to the boy and indicates that Damian is a legit Robin and THE Robin of the family. Nightwing certainly demonstrates his maturity here and it does feel like a passing of the baton both figuratively and literally from the iconic pop culture Robin, Dick Grayson.

This has been a really fun arc by writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason. I wonder what the future holds for father and son, Batman and Robin, in light of the developments by Damian’s literary father Grant Morrison in the pages of Batman Inc.

Batman Incorporated #3: Damian Nests Or Flies The Coup?

Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. series has been less about the INC and more about the family feud. The writer describes the series as follows:

    This is Batman, Talia and Damian, caught in the middle of this gigantic global war. It’s really about parents falling out with each other — only these parents have the power to crack the world in half. [Laughs] One side has a supervillain army with assassins and Man-Bats and genetically engineered troops. It’s kind of the horror of what goes wrong in a family just expanded to a global scale.

This is pretty Shakespearean with Damian having to forgo his Robin identity in this title, since mama has a bounty on his head.

So, does Damian hire Redbird to do his bidding? Or is something else at play?

Well, with Batman Inc. #3, Damian finds a creative way to honor his dad’s wish to not be Robin right now so he is not a target. What does Damian do? Well, he dons the Redbird sidekick gear and it seems he’ll be fighting alongside the new Wingman – a mystery those still about who is under the mask – per the cover to Batman Inc. #4. The Comics Nexus’ EIC has speculated that it could be Jean Paul Valley, formerly Azrael in the pre-New 52 DC universe (DCU), under the Wingman mask. Who do you think it is?

    (From left to right: Two panels from 2012’s Batman Inc. #3, cover to 2012’s Batman Inc. #4, plus Batman and Wingman panel from 2011’s Batman Inc. #6.)

Will Damian stay as Redbird? It would make some sense since Tim Drake-Wayne’s Red Robin costume changed in the New 52 and Damian’s Redbird costume is very similar to that old costume that was designed by Alex Ross as part of the classic Kingdom Come series where the painter partnered with writer Mark Waid. In Kingdom Come’s then future of the DCU, Dick Grayson was Red Robin, but DC liked the costume so much, they gave it and the mantle to Tim Drake when Damian became Robin. Anyway, DC can’t have two like costumes in the Batfamily – Redbird and the classic Red Robin feathers. 😉

What is the future of Batman Inc. after Grant Morrison’s final issue with series with its issue #12 expected in 2013? Certainly DC Comics has not capitalized on its previous Knight and Squire mini-series that spun from the INC concept. In addition, while its ongoing DC New 52 Batwing series is intriguing, it is not lighting the sales charts on fire.

It would appear that Grant Morrisons’ years in the Batverse are coming to end and all his threads will be tied up. In describing Wingman and Redbird from the upcoming Batman Inc. #4, he teased his own end to the book and the culmination of his years with Batman was follows:

    But they’re obviously the end game of “How many iterations of Batman can we get to?” The whole idea of “Batman Incorporated” will start to fold back in on itself as Leviathan’s schemes become more and more evident. We wanted to create a finish for that, in a way…

    …Every little thread we’ve had for the past six years gets a payoff. As I’ve said all along, it’s kind of a heartbreaking story ultimately because it has to be. But I can’t say in what way it’s heartbreaking. We’ve seen a little bit of this in the first issue, with Bruce Wayne under arrest. Things are happening here that will change things forever, as we always say.

Certainly, since Morrison had described the book as a family feud between Batman and Talia with Damian in the middle, folks are speculating a tragic end for Damian. That is difficult to contemplate since he’s been shown to be alive in the pages of Batman #666, an issue that included intel of Damian Wayne’s past and future written by Morrison, but something about this family will see tragedy likely in the future. Perhaps Talia kills and replaces her father – Ra’s Al Ghul – as THE prime Batman immortal rogue? Nah. It’s probably something else. Do you have any thoughts on the “game changing” end to Grant Morrison’s Batverse odyssey?

Since Batman Inc. is showing to be a successful book sales-wise, I can’t see DC cancelling it after Morrison departs. Could a Batman Inc. anchored by Damian Wayne’s Redbird alongside Batwing, the Knight and maybe the new Wingman be a compelling evolution of the series? I would actually prefer a Batman Inc. without Batman so we can see these other characters solve and defeat threats out from under the shadow of THE Bat.

The INC part should be focussed on after Morrison, and hopefully, Batman will leave the title.

Batman #12: Harper Row Gets Prepped For Prime Time

The much buzzed about Batman #12 retraces story beats all the way back to Batman #1 through to Batman #11. By the end, we know who Harper Row is in current Batman lore, but we’re not clear on what’s next for her. When you consider what just happened concerning Damian Wayne in Batman Inc. #3, it does seem to be interesting timing for Harper’s vault to prominence.

Writer Scott Snyder has indicated that Harper Row is a big deal and that we’ll be “seeing more of her in Gotham soon – she has an important role to play in upcoming stories”. It is not clear if that will relate to Snyder’s upcoming “Death of the Family” arc featuring the Joker or beyond that as we know DC plans a few years out.

I quite enjoyed Batman #12. The story was compelling despite not having a lot of Batman in it, but it was nice going back and reliving some of the events from Batman #1 to now through Harper’s eyes. I think artist Becky Cloonan has a clean manga style to her art which felt fresh and I tip my hat to her for being the first female to provide art on the Batman title. However, while I liked her style, I’m not necessarily sold on it for the Batman anchor series. Andy Clarke’s artwork in the back part of the book, with James Tynion IV co-writing with Snyder, felt more like an authentic Batman story visually. DC Comics NEEDS to get Andy Clarke on a New 52 title… STAT!

Writer Scott Snyder has also revealed that:

    BATMAN #12 properly introduces a character I care a lot about, Harper Row. You saw Harper briefly in BATMAN #1 and in BATMAN #7 (when she basically jump-started Batman’s heart), but her story – her relationship to Gotham and Batman – has yet to be told. So this is where you’ll learn all about her, and why she seems so familiar with the Dark Knight. Hers is also a story that matters a lot to me.

He sure seems like he has a master plan. It was nice going back to see those olde Harper Row panels in issues #1 and #7. See below.

    (From left to right: Panel from from Batman #1 and two panels from Batman #7 with art by Greg Capullo.)

So, what are the big plans for Harper? Is she a future Robin? Although, I do think Ethan Van Sciver does a very nice depiction of Stephanie Brown as Robin. 😉 That said, what plans do you think Scott Snyder has in store for Ms. Harper Row?

I’m intrigued by the future of Harper and all of DC’s current and ex-Robins.

DC needs to get that rumored The Robins series off the ground as part of the company’s inevitable Wave Four after a few more New 52 series are ended. I think a Robins-centric series would do well. Don’t you?

Till next week, thanks for reading. As always, all feedback welcome.

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